An 18-year-old who’s lives with a stutter says he can’t wait to complete his Childcare Early Years Level 2 practitioners course, so he can help children with special needs.

Manchester College student Faizan Sheikh has lived with a severe stammer for 15 years. The hardest thing to say for him during his childhood was his name, and faced bullying throughout his primary and secondary school life.

After completing a speech therapy course two years ago, he now feels empowered to share his story. He wants to help Asians understand how isolated someone with a disability or speech impediment can be made to feel.

“As a child, the hardest thing for me to say was my own name,” says Faizan.

“At the age of three, when most children are having short conversations, I couldn’t even string together my sentences.

“When people asked me my name, I would just look up at my mum or dad, and they’d say my name for me. I was too scared to do it.

“I used to get bullied in school because of my stammer. Children would laugh at me, leaving me feeling isolated and alone. The things they said, the way they mimicked my stammer, it all used to make me feel desperately sad and upset.

“I feel confident now that I can control my speech, say my name, and not be afraid of speaking to people anymore.

Faizan was diagnosed with Trisomy 18 (also known as Edwards Syndrome) when he was born.

Individuals with the condition often have slow growth before birth (intrauterine growth inhibition) and low birth weight. Affected individuals may have heart defects and abnormalities of other organs that develop before birth.

“When I was born, I was very, very sick, and I had to go through numerous operations. I was referred the Francis House Children’s Hospice; my parents thought I wasn’t going to survive.

“Both my parents have been amazing throughout my journey.

“Mum has held my hand and encouraged me all the way. She has always been by my side, fighting my battles for me – she’s my hero. She has a heart of gold, and she is a gem! My mum is one of a kind.”

Faizan describes his dad as funny and kind, something which took the edge of the cruelty Faizan faced as a child.

Having learned some essential breathing techniques, Faizan has developed tactics to minimise his stammer and given hi the ability to have an entire conversation.

“The turning point for me was the speech therapy course. It taught me costal breathing techniques, how to choose my words carefully for fluency, and taught me self-confidence.

“The stigma and discrimination towards stammering in our Asian culture had only played up the low self-esteem and feeling of shame that I had in my earlier years. I realise that now.

“At college, my tutors have been brilliant; they’ve encouraged me throughout the course. I am hoping to work towards being a teaching assistant working with children who have special needs.

“I am determined to apply myself and hope I can motivate others by telling them that ‘you can achieve anything in life – just be determined!’”

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